The first day of the 2021-2022 school year for faculty and staff looked a bit different than in years past. Held on Monday, August 23 in the Horn Theatre instead of Tagart Chapel to allow for more physical distancing and greater air circulation, the joy of being together was visible in each person’s eyes—their smiles covered by masks.
Following welcome remarks, school-wide updates, and introductions of the new and nearly new (second year) faculty and staff, Head of School Dave Farace presented the John T. Grega Teaching Chair. Funded in 2003 by Vernon Wright '61 and his family, the chair recognizes Grega’s role as the moral and spiritual leader of the McDonogh Family for many years. In keeping with tradition, Farace kept the audience in suspense with his description of the recipient.
After sharing an anecdote about the recipient and Grega working together to create a garden at Childs Memorial Terrace, Farace described the work of the honoree saying, “He is dedicated to maintaining the School’s many athletic fields and keeping them in top condition for our students and visitors. With patience and precision, he mows and lines the fields, making those open spaces more than suitable for everything from championship competitions to just another day of Lower School PE.”
Farace continued, “In the fall, he enjoys being the designated tractor driver, taking students and teachers on a hayride through campus to Roots Farm for the pumpkin harvest. In the winter, he loves to play in the snow. Behind the wheel of one big vehicle or another, he pushes, plows, and piles it up. He takes pride in how clear and safe our roads and sidewalks are when school reopens after a snow day.”
Gill’s supervisor was quoted as saying, “Through his quiet leadership and ability to set an example, he is passing on his knowledge and experience to others. He is both a humble man and a powerful role model.”
After some speculation among the crowd, the gathering was thrilled when it was announced that the Grega award was being presented to Harry “Colby” Gill—the senior member and the “heart and soul” of the grounds crew who, as Farace said, “can plow and plant, repair and renovate, or teach from the top of a tractor.”
Nine endowed teaching chairs have been established at McDonogh. They have been named in honor of “Dutch” Eyth, Ray Oliver, Tom Harper, Doc Lamborn, John Grega, Charles Kinard, Sue Newton, Wright Abbott, and the Rollins-Luetkemeyer Foundation. Endowed chairs are the most prestigious honor an educator can earn. The award recognizes great teaching as well as commitment to the McDonogh community. Each recipient, who is selected by the administrative team, holds the chair for three years and receives a stipend over and above his or her salary.